Album Review: The Albertans - "New Age"

Album Review by Ira Henderson

The Albertans’ new album "New Age", opens with songs about cash, death and love. The songs reference subjects ranging from abstractions like buried dowries seeding money trees to the concrete frustration of an unresponsive love-interest neglecting to text you back. Most of the album, sticking to the traditional indie aesthetic, focuses on the quirky, often overlooked subtleties of interpersonal relationships. The vocals are delivered in idiosyncratic rhythm\s over thick instrumentation that ranges from a single reverb guitar to lush compositions incorporating strings and deep bouncing drums. If Indie has become a genre, this album falls smack-dab in the center of it.

The lyrics are the main focus of this music. The bouncy instrumentals often seem to exist primarily to support the vocals. The vocals themselves are handled by both a male and female voice, usually one or the other and sometimes both, often supported with choral background singing. The quirky rhythms of the delivery, however, sometimes squish important words into staccato incomprehensibility. Don’t worry, though. All the words are written out for you on the inside of the album cover. I sometimes find that to be a little pretentious but the Albertans seem to have put above-average care into their lyrics.
On second thought, it may be on purpose that the vocal rhythm squashes the word ‘love’ out of a song about unrequited affection. I guess you’ll have to listen to the thing and decide for yourself.

Although the instrumentals often take a back seat on this album, they do sometimes get a chance to shine. The guitar work is restrained but effective and sometimes unpredictable. The bass is strong and agile, usually managing to avoid the trap of simple doo-doo-doo-doo-doo timekeeping. The drums are best when they play around with throbbing tom-toms, giving the rhythm a shapely bulk. The Albertans can pull off large, complex arrangements, and when they do no instrument is superfluous and none are lost in the shuffle of the mix. They are also able, when the mood calls for it, to pare their music down to a single guitar and voice. This gives the album variety and avoids the common problem of every song sounding the same.

A problem that the Albertans haven’t avoided: when listening to them on smaller speakers with weak bass, the jangling indie guitars and hissing cymbals wash out the low end of the mix, which can get harsh on sensitive ears.

All in all, the Albertans’ New Age is a strong little indie release. The song writing and instrumentation are both pretty solid and the album is diverse enough to stay interesting while still managing to remain a unified whole. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but anyone who’s down with the indie scene ought to at least give ‘er a listen.


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